London: Piracy off the Horn of Africa, while unlikely to return to 2009 levels anytime soon, has by no means disappeared, and an unguarded ship could be taken any time, warns the managing director of a leading crisis prevention and response consultancy.
Alex Kemp, who runs the UK’s NYA International (his picture is pixelated due to the nature of the job), tells Maritime CEO that the underlying causes of the original problem off East Africa have not gone away and “the pirates are still active”.
These pirates continue to conduct probing operations and are regularly scoping out vessels to assess their levels of security and vigilance, Kemp says.
NYA’s fleet and risk management solution, MarTrack has recorded over 65 incidents of suspicious piracy activity in and around the high risk area in the last six months.
“Piracy is unlikely to return to 2009 levels in the short to medium term, however, it is highly conceivable that an unguarded vessel could be taken,” Kemp insists. “If this were to happen it is likely that the vessel would be held for a protracted period of time and be subject to a high ransom demand,” he adds.
NYA has more than 24 years’ experience of helping clients reduce their exposure to and manage incidents of kidnap for ransom, abduction, extortion, illegal detention, marine piracy, emergency evacuation and repatriation, malicious product tampering and other international problems and crises.
NYA’s MarTrack is the only tool on the market that combines a range of services usually purchased separately into one integrated system, Kemp maintains.
Looking at other hotspots for piracy, Kemp noted that West Africa has seen a spike in activity of late. It has traditionally manifested itself in the form of cargo attacks, bunker theft and occasionally a crew kidnap. However last year saw a significant rise in targeted crew kidnappings – with crew taken off vessels and moved onto land where they are held for ransom. There were seven cases in 2012 and well over 30 in 2013.
MarTrack has recorded a high number of incidents in Southeast Asia also, though here almost all piracy incidents are akin to petty theft – and generally the number of recorded incidents in the region has been dropping. The exception is the area off Indonesia, which has seen a sharp rise.
“Conscientious shipowners are still committing significant resources to protective security – in the form of thorough attention to BMP4, armed guards and vessel tracking solutions,” Kemp relates. However, the ongoing costs of armed guards in East Africa and associated administration is a burden for operators. Some are asking about more cost effective alternatives to maintaining good risk mitigation in the long term.
In West Africa, meanwhile, shipowners are concerned about the levels of violence being used and the expertise and sophistication of pirate groups, says Kemp. Despite lucrative business opportunities, some avoid doing business in the region. Others seek advice on which resources can be trusted to provide the best level of protection for their operations. [04/02/14]